Grace Kinda, is the founder and executive director of SAFWE, a social enterprise aimed at advocating for and supporting collaborative partnerships for community development. She’s a Zawadi Africa Education Fund Scholar, and currently a graduate Clinical Counseling student at Villanova University, USA.
What was the dream when setting up SAFWE and the Starting up Development Initiative?
My dream for setting up SAFWE was to empower communities by advocating for and providing support for women empowerment and education initiatives. We partner with local and international development partners to support sustainable social ventures in our communities by providing training, creating and conducting awareness campaigns, and one-time financial backing to our community partners.
It’s commendable that you fully intend to use the education you are currently acquiring to go back and support communities within your home city: Nairobi. How do you plan to get more people to follow in similar footsteps?
I believe that information is power. Providing youth a platform to learn, test out new ideas, challenge “norms” and actualize a dream within and beyond their communities is fundamental to creating change. With our Youth Advocate Program (soon to be launched) our goal is to create an online “think tank” – what better way to gain validation and support of your ideas that to bounce your ideas off with your peers!
How would you describe the journey of setting up a business?
I would say that journey to create a business requires a great deal of patience. Aside from the legal logistics, as a solo entrepreneur I have had to handle most aspects of business development, outreach, and operations myself. I am still on a continual process of building and actualizing my business goals.
What role does education play in the life of an entrepreneur?
Education is not just what you learn in a formalized institution. I have learnt so much from internship opportunities such as HIV and education advocacy organizations which helped build my skills and inform many of the decisions I make at SAFWE. I believe that formalized education helps frame your experiences in a way that make you understand the bigger picture.
What is the biggest challenge that you have faced when setting up your social enterprise?
The biggest challenge so far I would have to say has been communicating with and convincing potential partners to partner up on our projects. Even with research supporting project ideas and financial backing, it is still somewhat an uphill battle to convince partners to commit their time and resources to seeing projects to the end.
What is the one thing you wish people had told you before you started your entrepreneurial journey?
Do not get discouraged! Every failure presents a unique opportunity. I have often set goals that have either been unmet, or have not met my expectations. Learning from my mistakes has understand the potential behind these failed goals and have – believe it or not – allowed me to think outside the box on how to solve the challenges I face.
In your opinion and based on your experience, what does it take to set up a successful business?
Setting up any successful business requires you to really LEARN about your consumers. To do this, patience – often requiring many days and nights researching, asking questions and planning – is fundamental to this process. You have to be an expert and be able to stand firmly behind your product. You have to convince yourself before you convince others that you can be successful.
Do you believe age has an influence on the change you can create?
I believe it does. I think that young people are often sidelined in development because we have not “seen enough” or “been tested enough” or “worked on the field” to have a legitimate voice. Given an opportunity, young people have shown time and time again that we CAN, go against the grain and effect meaningful change. At 25, I am ready!
Given your interactions with sustainable projects, what do you measure sustainability based on?
I ask myself 1 question when thinking about sustainability – “At the end of our partnership, can this project stand alone, be better established or evolve into something better?” If I cannot answer yes to any of these questions, then we go back to the drawing board.
What advice would you give to a young social entrepreneur?
Believe in yourself. Believe in your idea, that you are up to the task and set your mind to it. Believe that you have the resiliency to bounce back and that it is okay to experience failure. Also, keep your mind to your goal and the positive impact you will have with your business. Let this be your guiding light.